Reflecting On Growing Teams and Communities

Reflecting on growing communities


As a community or team leader, you care about advancing the mission of your organization.  In my life, I help support a local programmers users group, our church community, and my family.  I serve with a team of awesome software developers who care about the craft of our work and the impact it makes.  As I was reflecting on this post, I felt like I needed to build a checklist for myself to “re-center” my thinking on community leadership.  Here are a few items I’m challenging myself to improve upon. I thought I would externalize some of my thoughts and struggles to support other community managers or leaders. 

  1. Empowering others: I’ll be honest. As the first born in my family, I find it easy to become responsible for all the things.  It’s what we’re supposed to do right? (No!!) I have to challenge myself often to empower people more. As an agile geek, I suppose I like Scrum for this perspective.  In the Scrum framework, leaders take the product or organization mission and chop it into smaller pieces. (stories) For each story, we try to clarify the qualities of meeting a certain objective or feature.  There’s focus on defining objectives, not “how-to” procedures. (Define what/Not how) We also associate a priority rating on the story. The scrum framework encourages teams to self-organize to implement the most important and inexpensive stories in a time-boxed iteration.  Even if I’m not using “scrum” for a certain community project, I believe it’s important for us to clarify vision, clarify and decompose plans, and properly delegate.  
  2. Dedicating time for others: Leaders focus on making their team members successful.  As a manager, I enjoyed connecting with my team members one-on-one. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about their career dreams and ways we can craft our work to advance some of their career objectives.  Of course, it provided an environment for me to serve as a coach and listen. In running a community organization, you may not have “one on one’s” with every member of the organization, but it’s definitely worth the time investment to connect with your team or executive staff.  When I used to volunteer at our local makerspace, I really enjoyed getting to support our members with their projects or questions.  I think the small moments of generosity from our early members helped to attract new members.
  3. Serving others: Every organization and team has a mission. What’s the purpose of this group?  Why does it exist? What impact do you want to make together? And it’s a mission that you care about.  From a team perspective, I subscribe to the school of thought that leaders should be great teachers and coaches.  To quote one of my favorite Catholic writers, how do we help people become the best version of themselves? How do we identify strengths and amplify them?  How do we provide the team with the largest perspective on their opportunities and team opportunities? How do we stay focused as a team? All of these questions have tension with each other.  And this is why servant leadership is hard.
  4. Forward-Thinking: As mentioned in #1, it’s important for the organization to have a plan.  For agile folks, this can be your product backlog. I believe that teams should create fluid plans that can adapt.  A plan might change due to market priority changes or new insights into tools/methodology. I don’t subscribe to the idea of building a “perfect” plan and executing from there.  I also believe that leaders need to clarify and articulate the vision and mission early and often.  
  5. Motivation:  Are we driven as Daniel Pink claims by autonomy, mastery, and purpose?  For me, I worked the hardest when I believed in the mission of the organization.  As a programmer, I thrive when I know that I’m improving my game and learning new ways to improve my code or our team processes.  I’m also motivated knowing that I’m helping people. The art of motivation is worthy of more study.
  6. Execution: In many professional circles, I find that I’m very good at execution. There are other areas of my life where execution and shipping my ideas to the market is hard. As a programmer, it’s very easy for me to build prototypes of lots of cool things.  Does this work matter and make a difference if I never ship it? Do we get stalled in our community organizations in the same way?  
  7. Communication: The folks at 37 Signals, the builders of BaseCamp, had a powerful word for their product development culture: clarity.   As I’m growing as a professional, I appreciate the craft of bringing clarity to our product definition, our code, our vision, and general communication.     

If you’re interested, here are some of the posts that inspired this reflection.  Hope that you find them helpful too.


Do you have a resource or book on community leadership?  Please leave a link or comment below!

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